Five years ago, MBN.com unveiled a series highlighting the Monsters of Myrtle Beach golf, four designers who were involved in designing approximately one-third of all the courses along South Carolina’s Grand Strand and its neighbors just across the North Carolina border.
We’re revisiting that package in a new way, breaking down the 12 best holes from Willard Byrd, Gene Hamm, Tom Jackson and Dan Maples.
In this edition, we’re taking a look at Hamm, whose design credits span three decades in the Myrtle Beach area alone. He very much helped bring golf to the masses, proving that courses who appeal to all can thrive for generations.
Here are 12 of our favorite holes from his six current layouts.
Hackler Course, No. 1
Hamm’s earliest renditions of this course have been drafted and re-drafted over the years, as modifications were necessary to keep it current. However, the 547-yard opener is extremely similar to what he had in mind. It’s the longest hole of the day and includes a slight dogleg right.
River Oaks, Fox Course No. 3
Hamm and Jackson put a beauty of a Par 3 together early on at Fox. Measuring no longer than 189 yards from the tips and an oft-goofy 140 yards from the whites, the green is protected by a picturesque pair of bunkers sandwiching a runway-like patch of turf running right up to the putting surface. (pictured right)
Beachwood, No. 6
Not a long hole by any means, the 347-yard sixth is dictated almost entirely by its putting surface. The elongated north-south green is swallowed up by dueling bunkers that give the appearance of a belt being tightened too much. It makes up for a straight, short hole otherwise.
Hackler Course, No. 6
The most extreme dogleg in a round full of them, the right-hand turn at the midway point of this 535-yard hole is a full 90 degrees. While it’s not the lowest handicap hole at Hackler (that distinction falls on No. 1), it’s a bear of a distance made to feel even longer by the dogleg.
River Oaks, Fox Course, No. 6
Sitting at a level 400 yards from the white tees, the sixth hole at River Oaks is in actuality a very straight hole. However, undulation on either side of the fairway, a rolling fairway itself and the prevalence of shadows cast by the tall pines makes it feel like a slalom. (pictured right)
Burning Ridge, No. 6
Clearly, Hamm loved to flex on the sixth hole. At Burning Ridge, he did it in the form of a 323-yard Par 4 with a huge dogleg left, a large waste bunker at the turn and a catch bunker deep. From there, it’s another three smaller ones anchoring the front of the green. (top photo)
Azalea Sands, No. 9
Now measuring a slightly less 461 yards from the standard tees (475 from the tips, 355 from the reds), the long and mostly straight hole includes two fairway bunkers that allow players a middle-of-the-road target area. As long as the ball is kept relatively straight, all trouble is inconsequential.
Eagle Nest, No. 13
While you don’t need to drop yourself into the insane length of the Perch tees (description below) to feel the full weight of this hole, it’s worth a gander on what amounts to a 673-yard hole from that distance. Trust us, you’ll have plenty to deal with from your regular tees. (pictured right)
Azalea Sands, No. 13
While most players can easily drive the ball away from the dangerous and huge pond up the right side, the element of that water creates a nifty addition to the dogleg right. The now 340-yard hole is a great chance for birdie and a great scene-setter for a group picture.
Burning Ridge, No. 17
A mid-level Par 3 with a ton of teeth, this 164-yard hole is frames splendidly by the large and somewhat winding pond that separates the green and ensuing land from the tee boxes. A large green is banked by ridges on the back side, leaving plenty of room for error deep.
Beachwood, No. 18
Only a few courses in the area boast a Par 3 at the finisher, and Beachwood is one of them. The 193 yarder requires as full of a swing as you can get, and you have to be precise, too. Four bunkers at the corners of the green are troublesome, and you’re taking aim knowing the clubhouse crew is watching your finish. (pictured right)
Eagle Nest, No. 18
The signature hole at Eagle Nest is another of those few Par 3s, and it looks significantly different than what Hamm did at Beachwood. Here, the dark and deep pond leads into a huge green with bunkers at each of the four cardinal points. They’re beautiful but do try to avoid them.
GENE HAMM’S GRAND STRAND DESIGNS
Course: General James Hackler Golf Course
Year opened: 1967
Notable: Originally known as Quail Creek, Hackler was taken over by the Golf Management Program at Coastal Carolina University and used as the school’s teaching venue for aspiring professionals. Simultaneously, the grounds are kept (in part) but the maintenance students at nearby Horry Georgetown Technical College.
Course: Beachwood Golf Club
City: North Myrtle Beach
Year opened: 1968
Notable: Relatively untouched during its 50 years, Beachwood is set on 180 acres of North Myrtle Beach real estate between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. It has the same ownership group today that it did upon opening.
Course: Eagle Nest Golf Club
City: Little River
Year opened: 1971
Notable: Although not recommended to everyone, Eagle Nest not too long ago added “Perch” tees, a mega-driving option that stretches the course to more than 8,100 yards and will be recognized as the longest in all of South Carolina.
Course: Azalea Sands Golf Club
City: North Myrtle Beach
Year opened: 1972
Notable: Speed golf is the name of the game at Azalea, where recent renovations cleaned up some of its past problems and removed scores of trees in lieu of waste bunkers. It gets players on and off the course without gimmicks or too many other hazards. It plays wide open nearly throughout.
Course: Burning Ridge Golf Club
Year opened: 1980
Notable: Since 2005, when a second on-site course was closed and Burning Ridge was able to focus on one set of 18 holes, it has been able to successfully help bridge the gap between the Myrtle Beach hub and county seat of Conway. (Burning Ridge 17th pictured right)
Course: River Oaks Golf Plantation
City: Myrtle Beach
Year opened: 1987
Notable: Although the joint effort with Tom Jackson is nestled amid a relatively loaded stretch of courses just west of city limits, the course recently downsized from 27 to 18 holes, eliminating the Bear nine. It’s known for its fast-paced rounds in close proximity to the airport and beach.